in the reading room: RIP X continues, the library book sale, and a laid back sort of readathon…

ripnineperilfirst

ThePassageCoverFeeling slightly more accomplished this week than last. Finishing a big-ass book will do that for me every time. Rich and I finished up The Passage by Justin Cronin this week. Woohoo! We read the bulk of it audiobook style, but after I quit Scribd in a fit of pique over their new audiobook policy, we read a bit aloud from our print copy until an audiobook copy was available from the library. Anyway, The Passage…Wow. Wow wow wow wow wow. Yep, totally loved this one. “To pieces” kind of love. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, little post-apocalyptic fangirl that I am. There were times I found it heavily reminiscent of The Stand, particularly in the beginning. And then there were times when I couldn’t help but think of The Walking Dead. But really, it was its own story for sure. I was totally clueless before starting the book that it involved its own unique brand of vampires, and I’m very, very thankful for that cluelessness. (Actually, I suspect that maybe there was a time I did know when it first came out and was all the rage, but I had no recollection of that little tidbit.) Anyway, I’m just not much of a vampire girl (except for Bram Stoker’s Dracula–that book I adored), and had I known, I might not have given this a go. So yeah, Debra Anne–maybe you ought to quit ruling books out using excuses like “but I don’t like (fill-in-the-blank) books.”

Okay, back on track please. I’m not sure what it is about post-apocalyptic/dystopian sort of stories that allows me to become so involved, so invested. I was right there, living in this scary new world along with the characters. And yep, the characters made me smile, and frustrated me, and brought tears to my eyes, and made me love them, even when I didn’t agree with them or completely understand them. The story kept me engaged all the way through. And I really enjoyed Cronin’s writing. But what exactly about this book moved it from a book I really enjoyed to a book that completely captivated me, I just don’t know. I honestly cannot point to any one thing that made me love this book the way I did.

forgotten girlsNext up was The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel. I’d personally never heard of Sara Blaedel before, but I get the feeling that she’s rather a well-known crime/suspense author amongst those who tend to read a lot in this genre. And it seems she’s downright famous in her native Denmark. I just stumbled upon this book when I was searching the library website for a new audiobook to listen to during all those cooking hours. I didn’t realize at the time I downloaded this one that it was the 7th book in a series. But honestly, it didn’t matter–it certainly felt like a self-contained story. Though I do realize there’s surely a lot of backstory I’m missing as far as the protagonist Louise Rick and her best friend Camilla Lind go.

In this book, Louise is just starting a new job, having moved from the homicide department to head a new sort of missing persons unit. Along with her new partner, a partner she’s not particularly thrilled about in the beginning, she begins her new job trying to find the identity of a woman found dead in the woods. Foul play isn’t really suspected; it appears the woman took a rather large fall down a bank. Identifying who this woman is, however, is the tip of a very large iceberg.

I found the story interesting, though I wouldn’t by any means call it at-the-edge-of-your-seat suspenseful. But at the same time, it is definitely not in the cozy mystery category. In fact, what we learn by the end of the book is truly quite horrifying, and I had a hard time stomaching some of the awfulness. Definitely trigger warnings for rape and for abuse of people with intellectual disabilities.

I enjoyed it enough, despite the horrifying aspects, to possibly give Sara Blaedel another try. I’d really love to get to know Louise Rick better. As all of Blaedel’s books haven’t been translated to English, I’ve no hope of going in order at this point, but if this book was any indication, I’m guessing I’ll be okay reading out of order.

Peril the First requires four books. These make books two and three, so I really should make it. Famous last words.

*****

ripnineperilshort

I also read a couple short stories. (Actually I read more than a couple, but I’m saving most of them to talk about when I finish the anthology the other ones are in.) But for now, I’ll mention two stories by Nikolai Gogol, “The Overcoat” and “Memoirs of a Madman.”

Thank you, homeschooling, for making me step into “the land of intimidating literature.” For me, the land of intimidating literature is vast and wide. Classics tend to live there. But then so do the works of a great many author’s writing today (A.S. Byatt, Haruki Murakami, Margaret Atwood, to name just a few). Literature from certain countries, like Russia and Japan. I guess one thing that guarantees I will categorize something as intimating is if I fear I’m not smart enough to understand it. The thing is, about 95% of the time that I force myself the visit the land of intimidating literature, I prove myself wrong. One would think one would learn from this and stop banishing books there to start with…but one doesn’t seem to learn from her mistakes.

And yes, the reason for all this rambling is that 1.) I was deathly afraid to anything by Gogol, and 2.) there was no reason to be. Both “The Overcoat” and “Memoirs of a Madman” were immensely readable. I was quite surprised by the humor in both these stories, though I wouldn’t call either story funny. “The Overcoat,” especially, was about the dehumanization of bureaucracy and strict hierarchies. I believe both are RIP-appropriate, “The Overcoat” more obviously so with the ghost/corpse (depending on the translation). I found “Memoirs of a Madman” overall to be sad, but in somewhat of a disquieting way. And bottom line, I enjoyed the hell out of both of them. Go figure.

*****

This week was our library branch’s book sale. Oh how we look forward to this sale every year. Rich, Annie, and I went on Tuesday (the day that is only open to Friends of the Library members). These are the beauties I picked up that day:

IMG_7333

On the left, the exciting new-to-me books I’m ridiculously eager to read. On the right, all books I’ve read in the past but picked up for fibro flare times when I need books that require little thinking or focus. (Not pictured: the two books I bought that I already owned. Doh.)

On Thursday, Rich picked up Eva and Thistle on his way home from work. We ate a fortifying supper before dropping Annie off at work and then heading to the book sale. Poor Thistle had to stay home to babysit the boys. 😉  Again, I may have gone a little overboard:

IMG_7334

(Not pictured: It’s become somewhat of a tradition over the last few years, that we give Mom, Dad, and Butch each a box full of used books as one of their Christmas gifts, and we really stocked up for that.)

Eva did okay herself. I think she said she ended up buying 30-something books. 🙂

IMG_0841

Ummmm…yes, Rich and I went back again on Friday. With really good intentions–we were just going to buy more books for Mom’s box Christmas box and grab some for Annie. But well, yeah…self-control is just a little too hard to come by at a library book sale. Especially on half-price day. I think Rich may have bought more for himself today than he did either on Tuesday or Thursday. 😛  And I picked another small(ish) pile too. Of course.

IMG_7338

The James Patterson’s are just more for “my brain doesn’t work and I’m cranky and I’m sick to fucking death of pain” periods. I’ve read them all before. The book that really excites me most from this stack is the Laurie R. King one–Eva told me about this series (Kate Martinelli) a while ago, and I’ve really been wanting to give them a go. So YAY!

I will not go back to the book sale today for bag day…I will not go back to the book sale today for bag day…I will not go back to the book sale today for bag day…

*****

Another YAY–this weekend is the Dog Days of Summer Readathon. Actually started yesterday, but I didn’t get much reading done. I’m hoping for a much better showing today. I have a ton of reading to do for school, but I’m going to try to break it up with some fun reading too.

this past week…week one

In the reading room:

*On Tuesday, I finished up Horizon, the last book in The Sharing Knife series by Lois McMaster Bujold. If I ever had to describe this series to myself, I’m not sure anything I could have said would have convinced me that I’d love it so much. It’s so very, very different than anything I’ve ever read. And to be brutally honest, I have to wonder if I would have even enjoyed this story if it was written by anyone other than Bujold. The way she told this story was perfection. With each volume, I became more in awe of the way she drew me in. I don’t think anything could have stopped me from listening to the entire series (yep, audiobook), especially by the time I’d gotten through the first two. I was so very invested in the characters–yes Fawn and Dag, but also Remo and Barr and Berry and well, lots of others. Considering that the series (apart from the epilogue in the final volume) takes place in the course of a year, it’s almost amazing the growth she was able to show in her characters. But never once did it feel unbelievable. The world she’d built was fascinating, feeling much like an alternate version of the Great Lakes (which of course is an area near and dear to my heart) and eastern North America to me (though I’ve no idea if that’s what she’d intended). The fantastical aspects felt fresh and original to me (though admittedly, my experience with fantasy literature is fairly limited). And she made me laugh right out loud. Her humor is an easy sort of humor, never forced and never in-your-face. Totally charming, really. And while it is a story of clashing cultures needing to find a way get along, and all the ignorance and stubbornness and frustration and fear and sometimes downright hatred that comes along with that, it is also a story of hope. *heavy sigh* My only regret is that it’s now over, and I really, really want more.

*Tuesday night, I finished Sherman Alexie’s Indian Killer. What a powerful book. On the surface, it’s a crime thriller sort of book. But the real story was in all the layers underneath. This is the second book this month (the first being An Unbroken Agony by Randall Robinson, a non-fiction book about Haiti) that left me floored with the overwhelming injustice that thrives on this planet. Both books led me to a deeper understanding of what it feels like to live with the reality of racism. Both books left me feeling helpless and so profoundly sad. Feeling helpless and profoundly sad are obviously not feelings I enjoy, but I don’t want to choose to allow my white privilege to shield me from the truths that so many people cannot hide from because it is the reality they live with day in and day out. This book is fiction, and yet I feel it is brimming with oceans of truth. While there were many passages that made my heart hurt, there is one line that I think will stick with me forever: “Only white people got to be individuals.” This is the first of Alexie’s books that I’ve read, and sheesh, I can’t believe I waited so long. People have long been telling me how great an author he is (though this is probably the book I’ve heard least about), and they most certainly were right.

*Wednesday didn’t see a lot of reading on my part. But I did read “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne for homeschool prep. I really do love his writing. And I enjoyed this story, but it didn’t knock “Rappaccini’s Daughter” out of its favorite-story-by-Hawthorne position. Read another two short stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne on Saturday, “The Minister’s Black Veil” and “The Birthmark,” which was a reread.

*Finished up Revival, Volume 5: Gathering of Waters on Friday morning. Definitely still hooked on the series. Love all the intertwined storylines. Volume 4 had an episode in it that made me wonder if the series wasn’t heading off in a “too disturbing and gross” direction for me, but I was relieved of that feeling with this volume. (Not that there isn’t still plenty of disturbing and gross, of course. 😛 ) And I’m trying to give the author the benefit of the doubt, but I admit I’m starting to wonder the explanation behind Revival Day. This bit with the fish and Weimar and the water has me worried that we’re going to end up with some easy cop-out answer to it all. But as I said, for now I’ll stay hopeful, because up to now it has been a cleverly written story and I’m just going to hope that it stays that way.

*Sunday afternoon, I read two essays from Genocide: A Reader for homeschool.

on the screen:

*So many shows in the mix right now. Rich and I watched episode 18 of the first season of Once Upon a Time (“The Stable Boy”). I’ve seen the first season of this show before, but it’s new for Rich. This is one of my favorite episodes of the first season–I loved learning the backstory of the Queen’s hatred of Snow. It’s not that I dislike Snow/Mary Margaret or Emma, but I just find Regina so intriguing. Friday night, we watched the next episode, “The Return,” this one dealing more with Rumpelstiltskin’s/Gold’s backstory. I realize I know nothing about acting, but I personally think Robert Carlyle (and yes, I had to look that up, because I just don’t pay much attention to actor’s names) is simply amazing in his role(s).

*Next up this week, we watched the first episode of season 2 of The Wire (“Ebb Tide”). This is a rewatch for both of us. We previously watched the first three seasons of this show back before it was available streaming. (It was so hard to keep up momentum watching when we had to get the discs through Netflix, especially as I so often needed to get movies/shows for homeschooling.) I don’t like this season quite as much as the first. Or maybe I should say that I didn’t the first time around, as I suppose I could feel quite differently this time.

Later in the week, we watched the next episode, “Collateral Damage.” The line that gave the episode its title made me smile. But the whole reason behind it all just makes me sad. I do get why police officers can’t allow themselves to feel too deeply personal about victims; it would undoubtedly be too crushing to one’s own well-being. But somehow it seems there ought to be a middle ground between the pain of caring too deeply and complete callous disregard. Fourteen women died…and no one wanted to be “saddled” with investigating what had happened, no one cared that these women were people. There is so much about this show that just plain hurts the heart. But that is part of the reason that it is so good–it’s putting the realities of our world right in our faces. And all the realities aren’t ugly ones; there are glimmers of hope in the minds and actions of individuals.

*Max and I have been watching Breaking Bad. He is obsessed with the show, and has seen it all a few times already. I had previously watched the first season and just wasn’t feeling it. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is I didn’t like about it. But when Max asked me to give it another chance and watch it with him, how could I say “no”? We’re in the second season now, and I do think I’m maybe enjoying it more. Tuesday we watched episode 4, “Down.” I loved the way Skyler is standing up for herself and refusing to take Walt’s bullshit anymore. And as much as I really do like Jesse, and as hard as it was to watch him become homeless, I had to respect what his parents did in making him leave his aunt’s house.

*Not up for another long show, Max and I then watched a quick episode of Parks and Recreation. He’s seen all the seasons that are on Netflix so far, but I’m just a newbie. We watched episode 5, “The Banquet.” And of course, it made me laugh. Doesn’t it always. Though I’m very glad to have spoken to a few people about how the show proceeds. Because at the moment I sort of have a like/not like relationship with the character of Leslie. I mean it’s sort of hard not to like her, but at the same time I can’t help but think, “Why do you have make her be such an airhead all the time?!!” But I’ve been reassured that this gets much better.

*In an effort to survive the heat, Rich and I spent Wednesday afternoon and evening binging on NCIS. Six episodes in all, episodes 15-20 of season one (“Enigma,” “Bete Noire,” “The Truth is Out There,” “Unsealed,” “Dead Man Talking,” and “Missing). I really enjoy this show, and it’s become a relaxing way for Rich and I to spend a lazy afternoon. But it is definitely not without it’s problematic moments. For example, I was quite annoyed with the transphobic elements in “Dead Man Talking.” I used to often watch this show on TV in its early seasons, and while I don’t really remember individual episodes, I do remember one story arc that has its start in “Bete Noire.” Tears to come in the future.. Saturday night, we watched the next two episodes (“Split Decisions” and “A Weak Link”), and then Sunday night the next three (“Reveille,” “See No Evil,” and “The Good Wives Club”).

*Thursday morning, Gray asked me to watch a Criminal Minds with him. We watched episode 14 of season 9 (“200”), the episode where we really get to see what J.J. was up to with the State Department. Rather a disturbing storyline. But then what isn’t disturbing about this show, right?

*I remembered that I’d better get on with watching Rosemary & Thyme, as it’s going to be taken off Netflix in mid-August. So after making myself feel productive by getting through a school lecture, I pulled it up and watched a few episodes while crocheting on the tee shirt rug. Episode 6 (“The Tree of Death”) from season 1 and episodes 1 and 2 (“The Memory of Water, Parts One and Two”) from season 2. Then Sunday, I snuck in the next two episodes (“Orpheus in the Undergrowth” and “They Understand Me in Paris”). I absolutely love this show. The mysteries can be sort of silly, but I love Laura and Rosemary so much that it makes up for a lot. It’s not often when you get to see middle-aged women be smart and funny and happy with who they are in a television show.

In the craft room:

*I’ve been so ridiculously lazy on the card-making front lately. But on Monday I finally made Sara’s birthday card (her birthday was Tuesday, so the word “belated” really should have been included somewhere). Alas, in my rush to then get everyone to sign it and get it off in Monday’s mail, I forgot to take a photo. Not that it was anything spectacular, but I actually rather liked it. I also made birthday cards for Ed and for Trish Monday–how can it be time to make August cards already?!! Slow down, Summer, I beg of you!

Then on Tuesday, I got Ruth’s birthday card made. Just two more August birthdays to go, unless I’m forgetting someone (which isn’t out of the question).

*I also finished this sweet little bunny on Monday. A gift for Gigi, Natasha’s beautiful new babe. Every time she posts a picture of her, I feel like my face might burst from smiling so much over her complete and total adorableness.

IMG_6638

*During that excessive amount of TV watching, I got down to work on a couple of Christmas gifts. One a rather large cross-stitch picture and the other a granny square afghan, for which I got 18 squares made this week.

In the kitchen:

*Very lackluster week in the kitchen due to the heat. We mostly ate leftovers, snacks, and went out to eat far more often than we should have. But Saturday I did manage to make up a menu plan for the next week, which is forecast to be cooler.

*Menu plan:

–Sunday: diner sandwiches, fries, pickles

IMG_0547

–Monday: grilled cheese on homemade bread, soup

–Tuesday is our anniversary so we’ll be going out

–Wednesday: spaghetti, homemade Italian herb bread, salad

–Thursday: slow cooker mac & cheese (new recipe), broccoli, homemade rolls, and cherry bars (another new recipe)

–Friday is up in the air, because Rich and kids may be leaving that afternoon to head to his mom’s for the weekend.

In the garden:

*As much frustration and heartache as the garden has brought this year–through disease and even more so wildlife–we watered it a few nights this week, because it’s been so hot and dry. Might as well try to save what little is coming back after the deer raid and relentless groundhog burrowings. Some of the beans plants have come back enough to actually be sporting a few pods at this point. And the zucchini and cucumbers are fighting their way back too, and are flowering. *fingers crossed* I mean, I know we won’t get the abundant haul we normally do, but hopefully we’ll still get something.

*After two years straight of failed tomato crops due to early blight, we decided to give the ground a year off and plant in pots. Of course, this meant starting far fewer seeds, and giving up on the idea of canning truckloads. But alas, some of these plants have gotten blight anyway. *heavy sad sigh* Still, we’re struggling through, trying to save what we can, and hoping that at least a some of the plants will get through unscathed. We’ve finally got our first little tomatoes. *more finger crossing*

*We’re also getting our first jalapenos, despite the deer eating down all 68 plants we had pretty drastically.

In the home improvement realm:

*Hooray for me! I forced myself to get the third coat on the walls Tuesday morning. The white paint looks so fresh and has done wonders brightening up the room.

*Friday morning, I figured I couldn’t put off painting the trim much longer, so up I headed with the orange paint. I’ve always been pretty good at having a steady hand for trim painting, but I was soon reminded that fibro has a way of changing things. After painting just a small portion, I knew I was just going to have to tape it all off. So Saturday afternoon, I got started on that. I didn’t have enough painter’s tape, so Rich stopped and got me some while he was out running errands. Sadly, he bought a cheap-ass brand, and it just wouldn’t stick. I ended up having to pull down what hadn’t just fallen off on its own, and Rich went and bought a new roll. I just wasn’t up for another attempt (it is SO HARD on my neck/shoulders/upper back) that evening, but I got back to it Sunday morning. Got about halfway done before Ed and Ruth called.

IMG_0546

In the homeschooling realm:

*I really, really, really need to buckle down over the next few weeks and get a bunch of work done. This week just didn’t see a lot of progress…

*While I’d done the bulk of the planning for the first week of geometry previously, I got around to putting the final tweaks on things and writing it out in my planning binder on Tuesday. I also finished typing up week one’s vocabulary list (most words came from the week’s short story readings, but there were also a few from the week’s readings in our genocide/human rights class and a few from the week’s history class).

*As mentioned above, I read “Young Goodman Brown” on Wednesday, and the next day I listened to the lecture, taking notes that I then typed up into a handout. Also typed up some discussion questions. On Saturday, I read another two Hawthorne stories, and an essay by Herman Melville about Hawthorne’s writing. But I’ve decided that I won’t be having Gray read the essay as I just don’t think he’d get much from it (other than annoyed at me for making him read it 😛 ).

*Also on Saturday, I typed up a vocab test for week one’s list. And got week two’s English plans finalized in my binder.

*Sunday afternoon, Rich and I headed to Starbucks for a couple hours to work. As noted above, I read two essays for our genocide/human rights course. I made up a notes guide for the first essay and a journal writing assignment to go along with the second.

In the land of parenthood:

*It’s official–Max is now as tall as I am. That makes all three of them.

*As much as Annie loves her job at the library, it’s just taken such a toll on all of us because of how far away it is since we moved. The one hour round-trip just isn’t worth it three days a week. Especially since Rich has to take her, and it’s just too expensive and environmentally unsound for him to come home during her shifts. So she decided to apply at Tim Hortons right down the road from us, and she interviewed last weekend. While the interview went well, the manager told her that they really needed someone who was available more hours, especially in the mornings. But then Saturday morning, Annie got a call that she had a job there working in the evenings if she wanted it. YAY!!! So the new job might not be as cool as her old one, but there will be a lot of benefits, including the fact that she’ll now be able to walk to work.

Fellow inhabitants:

*Oh my, how that not-quite-5-pound pile of bones and fur can put up a fight every day when we have to give her her pills. I hate stressing Aldo out like that, but all the medicines really do make a noticeable difference in how she feels. And luckily, she never holds a grudge.

*Every time I see Flapjack, I’m just amazed by how smitten I am with the little cutie pie! I never had any idea what incredible companions they could be. He is utterly perfect for Gray, and Gray takes such exquisite care of the fellow.

IMG_6646

On the project front:

*Didn’t really make a lot of progress. Indian Killer filled a slot in the “Native American/First Nations” on my 104×4.

*And our outing Friday afternoon let me fill in a few slots on my 50×50: 7/50 for item #6 (Hike/walk on 50 different trails), 22/50 for item #12 (Try 50 new restaurants), and 7/50 for item #49 (Photograph 50 different animals in the wild).

Happenings with friends:

*Rich and I got to spend Thursday evening with Eva. It had been too long since we’d all gotten together. It’s always a delight to walk into her apartment and get the loving, enthusiastic welcome that Thistle always provides. Oh how that sweet girl has my heart. As does Moth, the little sweetie pie. Seriously, I have no idea how Eva managed to get two such completely perfect companions, but I’m grateful we get to have them in our lives too. But of course, the best part of the night was getting to hang with Rich and Eva. We went to Sticky Lips of a late supper. Delicious food and awesome people…I’m a lucky girl, I tell you.

IMG_0525

*Sunday morning brought a truly lovely surprise–Ed and Ruth called us from the Sodus area and asked if we were going to be around in an hour. They had been in the Thousand Islands area and are now traveling along the Seaway Trail along the Lake Ontario. They only stayed for an hour or so, but it was quite the wonderful visit! I really wish we got to see them more often. My pathetic brain forgot to snap any pictures. 😦

Out and about:

*Rich and I took Annie to work Monday night. (We didn’t have pick her up because she was going home with Kirstin after work.) We hit then Big Lots to pick up a fan to help get us through this hot spell that is supposed to last through the week. Then we headed up to campus because Rich had an appointment to do advisement with a new student. Last stop was best–dinner at Monte Alban.

IMG_6636

*Fridays this summer have been days that Rich and I try to set aside for ourselves. Hasn’t always worked out, but we’ve managed most. This Friday we checked out Gosnell Big Woods Preserve (which was awesome and about which I made a post already), and then we tried Hooligans for the first time (yum–we both had the bayou burger, but of course, I had mine made with a veggie patty), and finally we hit B&N for coffee and relaxing.

Appreciating the natural world:

*I was sitting in the bedroom emailing Ana, facing the window but at a different angle than usual, and I spied a bird’s nest largely hidden in the grapevines cascading off the trees. While I’m sad that I hadn’t seen it sooner, as it’s surely been there a while, I’m delighted to have discovered it at all. With the naked eye, I can’t see much more than the vague shape of the nest and movement. Even with the binoculars, I can’t get a great look–mom did a great job concealing her nest. I was able to capture a not-so-great photo, and from that was able to confirm that it’s a robin’s nest.

IMG_6629

*I am also quite enamored with the morning glories growing out back.

IMG_6633

*Sunday brought another lovely surprise–I was just looking out our bedroom window and there in the yard right at the edge of where the grass meets the wild vegetation was a king rail! I didn’t know what kind of bird it was at first, but I got a wonderful look at the beautiful creature before running to yell down the stairs to tell Rich. Unfortunately, by the time I got back to the bedroom it was gone so I was unable to get a photo. I described it to Rich, and he said it might have been a rail as he’d heard them in the swamp from time to time. So I looked it up and sure enough, it was a rail. A king rail, to be specific.

*There were also a lot of butterflies about in the flower garden Sunday, including cabbage whites, sulphurs, a tiger swallow, and this viceroy.

IMG_6727

The weather report:

*Three words: Too. Fucking. Hot.

In sickness and in health:

*Painting is not at all kind to fibro. Duh. But I’m grateful to say that while the first coat threw me into a fairly short-lived flare, the second and third coats, while leaving me in more pain than normal, didn’t actually land me in flare ups. I’ve been careful to spread the painting out, and I think it’s paid off. So yay me! Unfortunately, taping off the trim has been a whole ‘nother story…